Goodbye Panama - Hello Costa Rica

Trip Start Nov 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of San Jose,
Monday, July 12, 2010

Having seen the Panama Canal and San Blas Islands, the other place I wanted to visit in Panama was the beautiful islands of Bocas del Toro.  Iīd purchased my ticket before my trip to the San Blas islands to make sure I got a space on the bus and then I even arrived at the bus station an hour and a half before my bus was due to leave, I was that keen to get there.  BUT, 10 minutes before the bus was due to leave, it was cancelled due to the strikes and road blockades up in Bocas del Toro (apparently 4 people had been killed already and there were issues getting to the islands as no fuel was getting in or out for the boats).  Nobody knew when the bus schedule would resume to Bocas del Toro and I managed to get the money back for the bus ticket, so onwards to Costa Rica it was.  As gutted as I am to have missed the islands, it wasnīt meant to be and probably a blessing in disguise really as the weather is rubbish at the moment so I wouldnīt have been able to sun myself on the beach anyway.

There were more gringoīs in the same situation as me and I ended up buying a bus ticket to San Jose Costa Rica with 2 danish guys (Thomas & Clemence) for the following morning.  We shared a cab back to the hostel and had to sleep in the movie theatre as the hostel was fully booked.  The following day, the boys and I got our bus to San Jose from Panama city - 16 hours, only partially reclining seats!  People moan about the buses in South America but here in central, "cama" buses donīt exist even for long / international journeys.
We left at 11am and at 6pm arrived at immigration.  Now this experience was somewhat different to all the other border crossings Iīve done.  It took 2 hours in total, basically one hour either side.  On the Panama side, we had to collect our large backpacks, pile into a small room, stand in a line either side of the room and the sniffer dog came in.  We then had to put our bags back in the hold of the bus, queue up for our exit stamps, then walk across to the Costa Rican side (no signs telling you where to go).  Iīm glad the boys were with me as itīs always safer crossing a border in numbers especially when you have to walk it.  On the Costa Rican side, there was no queue for the entry stamp but we still had to remove our backpacks from the bus again and this time they were checked by hand (not all - at random). 

We finally arrived in San Jose at 1:30am.  Iīd had no sleep as the bus driver drove like a lunatic on the Costa Rican side and I was convinced th we would crash or roll the bus.  We were greeted at the bus station by a million taxi drivers all telling you that they knew the best place in town to stay.  Weīd already chose our hostel, which was close by so we were in bed by 2:30am.

To be honest there isnīt much t see in San Jose.  We walked around Av. Central and the surrounding area, visited the history museum and the handicrafts market and some lovely bakeries.  San Jose has some lovely bread with sweet chilli and cheese baked into it, or there was one with ham and cream cheese  and lots more.
To me, Costa Rica feels a bit like Colombia, in terms of the colour of the people, their attitude, the music and the food.  Panama was a bit like Brazil.  Costa Rica offers almuerzo or casado as theyīre known here, but for double the price of the set menu lunches in Peru.  Everything is more expensive here actually - the accommodation is costing 13 dollars where as in Peru it was only 8 dollars per night.  But I like it - itīs nice - the people are really friendly.

And the piece de resistance - after 8 months of traveling I have finally found CHERRY COKE!!! 


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